The first months of a romantic relationship are
usually characterised by a special glow. While
looking at each other through rose-tinted
glasses, we are either virtually blind to their
faults or simply overlook their shortcomings
out of sheer fondness.
At that point, unpleasant manners seem
inconsequential to the somersault your heart
does every time you see your partner. Besides,
the fact that we want to show our new partner
that we are as lovable as they believe ensures
that we are always on our best behaviour.
Still, every one of us has peculiar quirks that
might not sit well with other people. The list of
annoying behaviours is endless.
For instance, some people can’t stand being
spoken to when they are having a telephone
conversation with someone else while others
resent those who monopolise the TV remote
Initially, these habits are not such a big deal.
But after few months or a couple of years, the
old saying, “Familiarity breeds contempt”,
becomes a harsh reality. We all go through
this phase with varying degrees in every
relationship. While it’s easy to ignore the
warning signals, remaining silent often
becomes impossible.
“For almost two years after we started living
together, removing Michael’s socks and shoes
from the sitting room corner every evening
was routine for me,” says Carol, a restaurant
“He would arrive from work and head straight
for the corner to remove his shoes and socks
before settling down on the sofa. I found it
objectionable, but in the beginning I picked up
after him, thinking he would take the hint. But
he did not change even after I told him that I
found it annoying. Mike only stopped the habit
after we had a quarrel that began with
something else and eventually ended with us
discussing his bad habits.”
Carol’s reaction to Mike’s annoying habit is
typical. When confronted with an annoying
habit in a partner, we initially ignore it
because we don’t want to ruin the magic by
nagging, so we try dropping subtle hints and
deceive ourselves that we can change him or
her — until the futility of trying to change
someone out of love cruelly dawns upon us!
As the years go by, resentment of these
trivialities festers, causing cracks that
eventually tear relationships apart.
In his book, Essential Manners for Couples ,
Peter Post says: “Minor irritations constantly
repeated can be more aggravating than major
bust-ups that only happen occasionally. If you
avoid problems from the beginning, little
things stay small. Yet you can attribute
divorce to not being respectful or honest with
your partner. A lot of that comes from not
considering how our actions affect the other
Respect your partner. As we ease into a
relationship, many of us allow the sense of
increased familiarity to disregard the need for
mutual respect. Your partner deserves the
same level of respect you would show any
other close friend, so bear in mind that
disregarding him or her is bad behaviour. Be
attentive to your partner and respect their
opinions, even if they are different from yours.
Listen to each other. Your partner deserves
more than selective listening to feel that he or
she is significant in your eyes. During a
conversation, beware of “drifting off” and
focus on what your partner is saying, make
eye contact, ask questions and clarify what
you need to.
Don’t criticise in public. There’s no hard
and fast rule that says that you have to be in
total agreement with your partner over
everything, but don’t criticise him or her in the
presence of others. A relationship is sacred
and special, and to keep it that way, it is
absolutely essential to refrain from humiliating
your partner. This is also embarrassing for
others to witness and is downright distasteful.
Know what will work for both of you.
When you commit to a relationship, there will
always be things you do on your own, and
those that you do together. It is respectful to
check each other’s timetables before making a
commitment that involves you both, such as
social events or invitations.
Don’t flirt. Human beings are social animals
and flirting with the opposite sex is only
acceptable if you’re out on a “hunt”. Flirting
with members of the opposite sex in the
presence of your partner is not only hurtful or
deeply embarrassing to them but also shows a
lack of etiquette.
Keep an open mind about your in-laws.
Our relationships with in-laws are often pre-
determined by typical social stereotypes that
only instill fear and solicit resentment. While
dealing with in-laws is at times truly
challenging, keep an open mind and try not to
fall out with them. We might at times want to
pour our hearts out to our partner about how
we feel about members of their family, but
avoid complaining about them constantly – it’s
in bad taste.
Learn to compromise. Once you have made
a commitment to spend your life with
someone, you have to learn to compromise,
provided it’s balanced. Accept that there’s
always more than one way of doing anything
and that the other person’s way is not inferior
but different. Know that whether an issue is
big or small, it is fine to tackle them in a
different way.
Respect your partner’s space. Being in a
relationship does not necessarily deny you
privacy. The key is the ability to interact at all
levels without necessarily crowding each other
out. By so doing you can maintain respect for
your partner. Always ask if you need
something from your partner’s closet, don’t
listen in on their phone calls and refrain from
reading their text messages and e-mails
without their consent.
Don’t discard small gestures. Somewhere
along the way, those small romantic gestures
are forgotten. You might think that stroking
your partner’s head while he lies on your lap
doesn’t hold any appeal for him any more, but
gestures like these send an unspoken
message to your partner. They mean that you
are in this relationship out of choice and not
out of habit. Just holding hands and mumbling
sweet nothings is a sign that you both still
have a lot to give.
Bedroom bliss. Being married doesn’t mean
you can emotionally bully your partner into
giving you your conjugal rights when they are
not in the mood. Sensitivity to each other’s
feelings isn’t just a matter of mutual respect;
it is the acceptable norm of good behaviour.
Whether it is a “yes” or a “no”, be considerate
about each other’s feelings.

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